INTERVIEW: Comin’ Straight from the Underground: The Just B27th May 2016
Since the release of their first album, and a memorable headline slot at Static, North East Grime duo HB (Newcastle’s H-Man and Ashington’s Just B) are arguably the hottest thing in the local underground rap-scene right now and they’re only just warming up. Mark Tyers caught up with Just B to get his take on their imminent headline gig in Sunderland, their summer festival slots and, of course, Konichiwa, Skepta and the booming state of the Grime scene right now.
MT: Konichiwa has stormed the album charts making it crystal clear that Grime’s back in a big way – what do you think of Skepta’s latest album and the whole Grime resurgence?
Just B: I’ve always been a big fan of grime in general. I’ve been listening to Skepta since he released Greatest Hits and Microphone Champion. I think the mainstream light is amazing, but I just don’t like all the bandwagon jumping kids who are jumping on it cos’ of all the hype at the moment, with no idea about the roots of grime, where it came from or what it’s about. But I guess that’s part and parcel of success. Konchiwa is fire though!
MT: This second grime wave really seems to be focusing on being authentic and true to grimes roots. One big eternal element of Grime has been the battles, and last year saw that almost never ending battle with Chip and various others. You and H-Man are both battle hardened MC’s in your own rights – do you think they’re generally good for the scene and was that how you first got stage time?
Just B: Hmm, they can be both good and bad; it all depends on the platform and reasons behind doing it. Personally, I did it for more exposure, which led to me being known and heard in different parts of the country other than just the North East.
I’ve clashed on Words Are Weapons several times over grime and hip hop beats. My best clashes were probably me against Raiman, Wilson and Eljay. I’ve also clashed with G-rhyme General in Stockton and Scorcher [a well-respected Grime MC and producer from London] judged.
MT: Do you think the NE Hip-hop and Grime scene needs more battle nights and, if so, what kind of format would you like to see?
Just B: I personally favour on beat battles. I feel they are more exciting in my opinion and yeah 100 per cent would like to see more battle events.
MT: So battles where the MC’s have to rap over the same beat rather than getting to use one of their choosing? I guess more freestyle battles rather than pre-written?
Just B: Nahh, pre-written over a choice of beats – 3 rounds, 2 verses each, which would be 3 different beats.
MT: Let’s talk about the NE rap scene in general – what kind of condition is it in right now and how can it be improved? Newcastle, for example, seems to now regularly get Wiley and other top British MCs visiting.
Just B: The scene is up and down, but at the moment there is some good stuff being released from what I’ve heard. I would love to see more support and fans, but I can feel it happening more and more as time goes on. And the likes of Chip, Wiley etc., playing some shows here can only be a good thing, as more people get in to the UK scene and realise there is one on the doorstep just waiting to be heard.
MT: In terms of good locally released stuff, your album The Perfect Storm [available for download on Bandcamp] is right up there. What inspired you and H-Man to get together to do that album?
Just B: We linked up years ago, always vibed off each other and always had a good response to the tracks we released, so we had to release an album. Plus, we are good pals to, so that helps!
MT: One of the things I really like about that album is just how consistent it is in terms of quality and also how aggressive and prideful it is – did you throw quite a few tracks away when you were trying to work out which tracks would make the album? Also, were there certain themes you were wanting to focus on in that album such as NE pride?
Just B: To be honest all the tracks we wrote went on the album, other than a couple of older ones which had been released previously. The theme was basically the every day struggles we face and the streets we are from. We wanted to showcase the NE scene as best as we could.
MT: You are playing Independent on June 3. What should people expect from your set?
Just B: Just a lot of energy start to finish. Hopefully, get the crowds behind us and have a belta!
MT: Have you two got anything planned for later this year? Any mixtapes, shows etc?
We’re currently working on another album together and a [solo] EP each is in the works also. We’ve got a few festivals [slots] lined up, one local, one in Scotland, called Audiosoup, up in the Scottish borders and one at Druridge bay [Coquest Fest], which is basically on my doorstep and also one in Alnwick.
Young Sceptic Presents… HB [H-man and Just B], Gang:Greenz, Kay Greyson on Friday, June 3, 7.30pm, Independent, Tickets are £5 on the door.